Building e-commerce for digital brands with Anton Johansson from Grebban
An interview with Anton Johansson, CEO and Co-Founder of the branding + E-commerce agency, Grebban, on meeting co-founders online, building e-commerce for brands, and projections on the future. Grebban and Centra share clients like Ideal of Sweden, Craft Sportswear, Sandqvist, and Verso Skincare.
Thank you for joining us for this interview! Could you start by telling us about your background and why you founded Grebban?
The road to founding Grebban started a long time ago. I built my first website when I was eight years old – and believe it or not, that very first site actually included ads. So despite my young age of eight, I realized that the internet was a place where you could make money. Since then, and throughout my entire childhood, I’ve built hundreds of sites. When my friends were playing computer games, I was building websites. The endless possibilities and the commercial perspective of the internet became my obsession.
My obsession with the internet and building websites led me onto various internet forums, where I’ve always been, and still am, an avid contributor. One day during my high‑school days, I got in touch with a guy named Eric. We bonded over our similar views on where the internet was headed. Eric and I shared many late‑night threads and discussions, which then led to building websites and running businesses together. We’ve had many joint ventures and startups throughout the years, ranging from mobile marketplaces, apps and various IT‑service companies – before eventually founding Grebban. Grebban was supposed to be a side business where we freelanced as consultants. But it quickly took off, and we realized that we were very good as an agency. The main idea was to build a product company, but we ended up becoming accidental agency owners.
According to you, what is most important when it comes to designing a new site?
We have three core concepts which we focus on. Firstly, it’s the brand. Everything from typography to color animation, how to set the brand, the recognition factor and expression. Secondly, it’s converting and selling. From creating a good customer journey, to clearly communicating why you should make a purchase – not just showing off the products. Finally, we focus on making it very easy to work with the design and the site. Building the site in a good way so that a brand can work on it without having to call a developer – making it manageable and easy to scale out.
Two of the brands you’ve been working with are Sandqvist and Craft Sportswear. How did your thoughts go when designing their sites?
For Sandqvist there were mainly two things that stood out. They wanted to move more towards fashion, but at the time, they had a very strong following from their core fans, but a hard time breaking into other circles or groups outside their core. We needed to present the brand in a new way that appealed to a wider audience without jeopardizing the relationship with their most loyal followers.
To do so, we focused on highlighting the products and getting better product images. We wanted to reach the new, desired audiences by putting the products at the center of attention. We also wanted to be able to connect with the physical stores for an omnichannel feeling and put Sandqvist’s focus on sustainability in the spotlight by showcasing the process they have for sourcing materials – their polyester being made of recycled plastic bottles is a good example.
Image description: Grebban took first place in the Swedish Design Awards e‑commerce category with the Sandqvist bags and items project.
The Craft Sportswear project involved a bit of rebranding. We needed to take the next step visually by adding more design and feel that would bring life to Craft’s full range of products, instead of only focusing on the functional clothing. The other big thing was figuring out how to appeal to Craft’s diversely segmented target audience. Craft is a very popular brand on several markets globally, but the popularity varies depending on which sport is locally dominant. As a result, we had to adapt to the different markets by using a dynamic design that brings forward the best‑selling products, from the correct category for that market, while also introducing products that help promote the sports that are less popular on the market in question.
Finally, we focused a lot on enriching their brand identity online. This included everything from creating space for videos, content, guides, features and background to create an environment where the customer could browse and discover new products without having a sales rep’ present to guide them through their journey. The online flagship store becomes the sales rep’ in a sense.
To what extent do you think brand design can help drive more traffic to a website?
We’ve noticed that as a Direct‑to‑Consumer brand, you can’t only look at the time span from customers entering a site to making a purchase – you have to make a strong first impact that catches their attention so they don’t just scroll past and move on. Typically, a brand has a narrow vertical of products, as opposed to Amazon. So, when people enter the site, you want them to stay by highlighting an emotion, a video, animation, colors and so on. You want them to spend time discovering more about the brand before more eventually making a purchase later. In microseconds, you want to establish a feeling that makes them want to stay and find more to learn.
Image description: The Craft Sportswear project was built to bring more life to Crafts new range of products
Grebban recently won the Swedish Design Award for the e‑commerce design category with Sandqvist. Congrats on the win! What made that project stand out and win?
Thank you! I feel that e‑commerce design is an area that has lagged behind a bit. Of course, there are a lot of great e‑commerce sites out there, but quite often they’re either highly technical or visually appealing. We’ve got both parts, and that is where the magic happens. We believe that our combination of skills within branding, UX design and technology made us stand out. And of course, Sandqvist should get a lot of credit as they’re a very cool brand that is super fun to work with.
Finally, what are your future projections for e‑commerce and brand design?
An interesting long‑term thing that you’ll need to keep in mind is that artificial intelligence bots will be visiting online stores more and more. This has to be taken into consideration going forward because we’ll need to be able to serve a shopping robot just as well as we serve a human. For example, you’ll need to design the checkout so it’s readable by both a machine and human.
Another trend that I believe is here to stay is the shift from templates to modules. Instead of having one template here and one there, we now break down the site and build modules. It’s part of Grebbans’ core offering and makes it easier to create truly unique experiences. This new approach makes traditional sites look square and boring. The Centra platform is perfect for building a modular site, which is why we use them for all of our Direct‑to‑Consumer brand sites within the fashion and lifestyle segment.
One last thing is that there will be much more interactivity between other platforms. And consumers will expect an e‑commerce site to seamlessly work in all channels. Through social media channels like Facebook and TikTok, and on all types of hardware or presentation layers such as wearables, in streams etc. There’s no end to the possibilities. The storefront will take many shapes and forms and this is also something that must be taken into account when running an e‑commerce business in the future.